Pipeline Explosion Attorneys
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Two thousand years ago, the Romans built a complex set of canals designed to transport water over long distances. Known as aqueducts, they revolutionized the way resources could be transported. Today, the aqueduct has evolved into the modern pipeline. Advanced engineering and manufacturing processes have allowed us to transport valuable resources such as natural gas and oil through a vast network of pipelines.
Spread throughout America, these pipelines are favored by energy companies as they provide a fast and cost-efficient alternative to truck transportation. However, deadly explosions happen due to the nature of the substances pipelines transport, their age, and the fact that they are not always visible. When pipelines explode, it is a result of a company’s failure to adequately maintain and update their systems.
If you or someone you know was involved in a pipeline explosion, our attorneys are here to help. Call us today at (888) 493-1629 for a free consultation.
Types of Pipelines
Oil pipelines transport crude or refined oils between oilfields and refineries. They are generally made from steel or plastic and can be anywhere from a few inches to four feet in diameter. Most oil pipelines are underground but surface at pump stations and valves. However, the Trans-Alaskan pipeline is a rare exception and is known for having an extended length of pipeline at the surface.
Natural Gas Pipelines
Natural gas pipelines carry natural gas to distributors who then use their pipelines to send the product on to consumers. These pipes are made from carbon steel and can be as small as two inches or as large as five feet. Notably, these pipelines are pressurized to promote the movement of gas from end-to-end. These pipelines are unique as they are used residentially and industrially. Though there is an extensive variety of pipelines used throughout the United States, oil and natural gas pipelines are the most common.
Those who favor the use of pipelines argue that, because they are taking large trucks off the roads, pipelines increase public safety. However, these ideas minimize the catastrophic consequences which accompany a pipeline failure, as well as how often pipelines are allowed to age without maintenance. Many pipelines function for years before they have any issues. After decades of use, corrosion wears away at a pipeline’s once-strong metal walls. When a pipeline is allowed to be unsafe, the unthinkable happens.
The consequences of pipeline explosions include:
Failure by the Numbers
The United States boasts the largest network of energy pipelines in the world. Approximately 72,000 miles of crude oil pipelines run underneath the soil. Most of these pipelines run through Texas as the state’s numerous oilfields frequently use pipelines to transport their product. However, the states of Louisiana, Wyoming, Montana, Oklahoma, Illinois, North Dakota, Kansas, and California also have significant amounts of pipelines. When combined with natural gas lines, the United States has 2.5 million miles of pipelines used for transporting energy.
Though there is political debate over their general use, there is no question that pipelines will continue to fail, especially as they age. Data suggests that disaster is sure to follow wherever pipelines are heavily present. The most common pipeline incidents happen in Texas and Louisiana, the nation’s leaders in energy production. With the highest concentration of oil fields and refineries in the country, the companies in these states have no excuse for allowing the lapses in safety that cause explosions to happen.
Alarmingly, there is no unified set of standards or regulations placed on the nation’s pipeline networks. A lack of federal oversight means that energy companies must take responsibility for the integrity of their pipeline systems. It’s simple: explosions happen when safety is not prioritized. If every company made an adequate investment into safety, their pipelines would not explode.
The Recent History of Pipeline Explosions
Due to transporting pressurized gas and volatile oil, pipelines have the inherent potential for explosion once safety is neglected. Every day, the employees of energy companies work at or nearby these potential time bombs. When these explosions happen, they are a result of a company neglecting to maintain their pipelines and failing to prioritize safety over profits. Regular people pay the price for it.
Deadly Pipeline Explosions
- The San Bruno Pipeline Explosion – On September 9, 2010, a natural gas pipeline exploded and shook a quiet neighborhood in San Bruno, California. The blast was so violent that residents thought a plane had crashed, or an earthquake had occurred. Eight people were killed in the blast zone. After an investigation, the explosion was determined to have been caused by aging and faulty welds in the pipeline. It was later revealed that owner Pacific Gas & Electric Company illegally took $100 million from its safety budget for executive bonuses.
- New London School Explosion – On March 18, 1937, a leaking pipeline exploded and killed nearly 300 students and teachers and injured over 300 more. The explosion is believed to have been started when an electric sander was turned on, providing just enough of a spark to ignite gas leaking from the pipeline. This remains the deadliest school disaster in American history.
- El Paso Pipeline Explosion – On August 19, 2000, a pipeline owned by El Paso Natural Gas exploded due to corrosion. The explosion claimed the lives of 12 people.
Workers Injured in Midland-Odessa
On August 1, 2018, a chain of explosions occurred at natural gas pipelines about 20 miles outside of Midland, Texas. After an initial explosion, officials responded to the scene to fight the resulting fire. While they were attempting to extinguish the flames, two more blasts occurred. Seven people, including two firefighters, were sent to the hospital. Four of them were reported to be recovering from burn injuries in a Lubbock hospital.
Early reports indicate that the incident happened at a spot where pipelines owned by two separate companies crossed. Workers from both companies were sent to examine a gas leak. Though it is not currently known which line malfunctioned first, it is believed that one malfunctioned initially and triggered a fault in the other, causing them both to explode.
The Midland pipeline explosion emphasized the lack of priority placed on safety in the American pipeline infrastructure. There is no excuse for a pipeline to ever explode, no excuse for sending workers to a dangerous worksite, and no excuse for lacking the safety regulations that would have prevented the chain explosion.
Pipeline Explosion FAQ
What causes pipeline explosions?
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are over 2.6 million miles of pipelines in the United States, delivering trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of billions of ton/miles of liquid petroleum products throughout the country each year. Most of us are unaware of the presence of underground oil and gas pipelines near our homes and workplaces. Until something goes wrong.
Pipeline explosions may be caused by:
- Improper pipeline installation
- Aging meters, gas lines, joints, gas mains, and pipelines
- Improper maintenance of pipeline systems
- Defective pipelines and safety equipment
- Failure to respond to reports of a gas leak Improperly trained pipeline workers or excavators
- Failure to check for pipelines before excavation
Investigating a pipeline explosion is complex and time-consuming, but we have the resources and manpower to get to the bottom of our clients’ injuries and losses. We can identify all factors that caused or contributed to the explosion to determine who is responsible.
Can pipeline explosions be prevented?
Like all accidents, pipeline explosions can be prevented. Due diligence and proper implementation of safety regulations can prevent the issues that cause pipelines to leak and burst. Proper installation of pipelines, including quality welding, will help prevent many pipeline problems. Checking before performing excavation work will prevent accidental contact with a pipeline. The use of properly maintained equipment by trained workers will also prevent pipeline accidents. When any person or company fails to take reasonable measures that would have prevented a pipeline explosion, they should be held responsible. Our attorneys can take the necessary steps to help you recoup your losses, cover your medical care, and get the financial support you deserve.
What should I do if I lost a loved one in a pipeline explosion?
If you lost a family member in a pipeline explosion, you may have grounds for a wrongful death case against the at-fault party. This would be the individual or company that’s responsible for causing the explosion and, therefore, your loved one’s death. It may be an oil or gas company that improperly installed a pipeline, a contractor that started excavation before checking for underground pipelines, or a manufacturer of a defective gas meter, valve, or line. Taking legal action of this kind can bring much-needed answers and peace of mind. It can also provide you and your family with the support you need to face a more stable future.
Whether you were injured, experienced damage to your property, lost valuable business, or lost someone you love, you can find skilled and compassionate counsel in the pipeline explosion lawyers at Arnold & Itkin.
Experience That Matters Nationwide
The pipeline explosion attorneys at Arnold & Itkin have the experience and resources required to fight for life-changing results, no matter who we are facing. Our long list of victories is evidence of our commitment to our clients. When BP tried to blame employees for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we were there to make sure workers were protected. When workers were injured in a refinery fire, we held their employer accountable for $97 million in losses. We are proud of these accomplishments because we proved that big companies are responsible for the safety of their employees. Arnold & Itkin was founded on the principle of obtaining results for the people that need it the most. People who have experienced an explosion have suffered enough—we won’t stop fighting for their recovery.
If you've been hurt in a pipeline explosion, call (888) 493-1629. You'll be connected to one of our pipeline explosion attorneys who will review your case and discuss your options with you. If we take your case, you won’t pay any fees unless we win.